Betting on the Clean Economy

- By:

Courtesy of GLOBE SERIES

British Columbia and three Pacific Coast states in the U.S. are counting on clean energy, clean technology and a 'green' economy to grow prosperity and jobs, political leaders told GLOBE 2012's opening plenary.

However, increasing global demand for energy will also drive continued fossil energy development including Alberta's oilsands, which provides huge economic benefits, a petroleum industry leader told the plenary.

Clean technology 'is a crucial, strategic export for us,' B.C. Premier Christy Clark (pictured righte) told hundreds of GLOBE delegates. The provincial government will soon release its clean technology sector strategy that will provide the vision to foster innovation in B.C. and ensure that it 'is the best place in Canada to be researching . . . piloting and . . . commercializing clean technologies,' Clark said.

The clean tech sector has the potential to create '86,000 new jobs here in British Columbia by 2020,' she added.

Clean tech is one of seven key sectors that B.C., along with Washington, Oregon and California which have formed the Pacific Coast Collaborative, have identified as a significant economic driver for the region. Clark becomes chair in 2012 of the recently formed alliance.

The Pacific Coast region's $47-billion clean economy sector could triple in size by 2020, given the right policies and partnerships, according to a report, West Coast Clean Economy: Opportunities for Investment & Accelerated Job Creation, commissioned by the collaborative. (For the full report, see here)

The collaborative aims to create up to one million jobs in the next decade, through its 2012 Action Plan on Jobs. The plan outlines a series of 'measurable commitments' by each jurisdiction for retrofitting state-owned buildings, fleet purchasing of advanced technology vehicles, and creating world-class energy standards to incentivize private sector leadership and advanced manufacturing.

'Asian nations . . . want to ensure that their huge economic growth is supported by environmentally sustainable practices,' Clark told the GLOBE audience. 'That's one reason why a central part of our jobs plan is implementing policies that support clean tech, and it hopefully will give B.C. an advantage in growing our clean tech sector.'

The B.C. government presented its jobs plan in 2011, in a report called Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan (see report here), because it realized that the province's economy is inextricably linked to what is happening in Asia, Clark noted.

According to a news report published on the website, a higher percentage of young Chinese want companies to reduce carbon emissions compared with U.S. and U.K. residents of similar age.

In a survey by Carbon Trust of 2,800 young people across six countries, 88 per cent of 18- to 25-year-old Chinese said they want companies to cut carbon emissions, with 83 per cent saying they'd be more loyal to firms that do. In comparison, only two-thirds of young Americans and U.K. citizens said they wanted companies to cut carbon, with just 57 per cent (U.S.) and 55 per cent (U.K.) saying they'd be more loyal to firms that do. (See article here)

Clark pointed to a couple of B.C. clean tech companies as emerging stars in the green economy, including Endurance Wind Power, a wind turbine manufacturer headquartered in Surrey, B.C. During the last four years, the company has gone from zero employees to 90, and its revenues have grown from $3 million to $25 million, she said.

Many companies have discovered that B.C.'s '30-per-cent tax credit and the clean tech-friendly market, in addition to our environmental policies, make B.C. a great place' to do business, she added.

'We are a role model for the world,' Clark said, noting that B.C.'s three planned liquefied natural gas terminals on the West Coast 'will be the first in the world that are principally powered by renewables.'

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, (pictured left) current chair of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, told GLOBE delegates that the group collectively forms the sixth-largest economy in the world. Gregoire acknowledged that while it's a big challenge to create a new energy future in current economic conditions, 'Those who, despite these tough times, see a good economic future that is a clean energy future are the ones who will prosper.'

The green economy is not just about a clean and healthy environment for the Pacific Coast region and for this generation, it's about sustaining the 'next generation . . . and the generation after that,' she said.

In 2007, Gregoire added, there was 'very high skepticism' when she set a goal to have 25,000 green jobs by 2020 in Washington State. 'Well, today we have 100,000 green jobs in my state - it 10 years ahead of schedule, and we have quadrupled our goal.'

Steve Williams, president and chief operating officer of Suncor Energy Inc., (pictured right) told the GLOBE plenary that there is a continued need for collaboration among all sectors to address the challenges of shrinking natural resources.

The environment and the economy are not mutually exclusive, but in practice are in fact mutually supportive, he said. 'Every emission we can eliminate, every time we reduce water use, every time we minimize land disturbance, we ultimately add some monetary value as well as social and environmental value,' Williams said.

Suncor, which has committed $750 million to renewable energy development, has been a leader in the 'triple bottom line' - the economy, social issues and the environment - for nearly a decade, long 'before it became the popular thing to do,' he said.

In the oilsands industry, greenhouse gas emissions intensity per barrel of oil produced has dropped by 40 per cent while 'absolute water use is down 30 per cent,' despite production levels now three times higher than they were in 1988, he noted.

The carbon gap between conventional oil and oilsands-derived oil, in terms of emissions intensity, has narrowed so that emissions are only about 10 per cent greater for oilsands-derived oil than for conventional oil, he added.

Suncor has developed new tailings management technology that will enable the company to eliminate all but one of its existing tailings ponds, Williams said. 'We will reclaim and restore all our disturbed lands to a natural state.'

Referring to a forecast by the International Energy Association (IEA), he pointed out that in 25 years, global energy demand will be 40 per cent higher than it is today, driven mainly by India and China.

World oil demand in 2010, which was 87 million barrels per day, is predicted to rise to 99 million b/d in 2035, according to the IEA. The IEA also forecasts that fossil fuels, which currently supply 81 per cent of transportation fuels, will still supply 75 per cent of those fuels in 2035.

'Oil will need to be a critical part of that (future energy) mix,' Williams said. He acknowledged that the green jobs to be created through clean energy and clean technology are 'critically important.'
However, he noted that 'the Canadian Energy Research Institute projects more than $2 trillion dollars will be invested in the oilsands industry over the next 25 years. Over that same time frame, the industry in expected to generate nearly a half a trillion dollars in government revenues and more than 800,000 new Canadian jobs.'

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (pictured left) told GLOBE delegates that the world is shifting from old to new energy business models, which creates 'anxiety and churn.'

It is 'an age of paradox,' with trade wars to lock up the next new line of energy products and heated policy debates about leveling the playing field for clean energy, Kitzhaber said.
But, in urging his audience to embrace the new and green technologies, he quoted renowned physicist Albert Einstein: 'You shouldn't use an old map to explore a new world.'

The challenges of the new world can't be met by clinging to the past, but by imagining a new world and building a new set of tools with which to achieve it, Kitzhaber added. The systems and values of the 20th century are no longer valid in a resource- constrained world, 'which means we'll have to change the systems themselves,' he said.

He showed a graph with an 'S' curve to illustrate the growth of a company. A firm starts with an investment climate that produces growth and prosperity. Then, as circumstances in the environment change, but the company doesn't modify its business plan to reflect the new environment, growth begins to flatten and eventually decline.

'I think General Motors circa 2008 is an example of a company that didn't heed this, and continued to build large fuel-inefficient cars in the face of high gasoline prices and concerns over climate change,' Kitzhaber said.

Pointing to another graph with two parallel 'S' curves, he said that successful businesses recognize new business models and build a new growth curve.

'For a while, both the old business model and the new business model have to co-exist,' which author Charles Handy, in his book The Age of Paradox, calls 'the area of paradox,' Kitzhaber said.
'People know that what they're doing isn't working, but because they're afraid of the unknown, they continue to hold on to the old (business) model even though it ceases to serve them,' he added.
'And I think that's exactly where we find ourselves today . . . in how we seek to manage our natural resources, and certainly in our policies pertaining to energy and economic development.'

The leadership challenge is being able to describe new clean energy business models 'in such a robust way that people can see it and believe in it and let go of the old model,' Kitzhaber said.

Jim Weigand, president of DuPont Sustainable Solutions ([ictured right), told GLOBE delegates that DuPont had gone from being 'one of the worst polluters in the world' to a leader in corporate sustainability. The company now has an organizational passion for sustainability, innovation and collaboration, he said. DuPont's vision statement is to create 'sustainable solutions for a better, safer and healthier life for people everywhere,' Weigand said.

The company's mission is to create 'sustainable shareholder and societal value while reducing the environmental footprint along the value chains in which we operate.'

DuPont, which is 210 years old, has since 1990 saved $6 billion in energy costs while increasing production by 40 per cent and meeting all of its emissions-reduction targets, he added. Since 1989, DuPont has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent and toxic air emissions by 75 per cent, he said.

The case for sustainability has to be incorporated throughout a company, beginning with 'strong leadership at the top' and then integrated into the firm's fundamental organization, Weigand said. It can't be 'the flavor of the day. You've got to work with it every day.'

He noted that DuPont is focused on three 'megatrends:'

  1. Food production. There are 150,000 more people in the world today than there were yesterday, and there will be 150,000 more today than tomorrow. Food production will need to rise by 70 per cent to feed the estimated nine billion people at which the Earth's population is expected to peak, he said.
  2. Energy Reduction. This includes alternative and clean fuels, as well as reduced use of fossil fuels through efficiencies.
  3. Safety Issues. As an example, one of DuPont's leaders looked at 81 million pounds of waste generated by the company, and said: ''We're going to get on a journey so that we put zero pounds (of waste) into landfills.'' By the fourth quarter of 2011, DuPont had achieved that goal, Weigand noted.

The issues in these three megatrend areas are too big to solve for any one jurisdiction or organization, so companies, provinces, states and countries need to work together in collaboration, he said.

'What we have to do is really embrace our competitors . . . suppliers . . . customers, government, NGOs and academia, and all together look at these issues. So what we do now is talk about the global 'collaboratory,' Weigand said.

Customer comments

No comments were found for Betting on the Clean Economy. Be the first to comment!